Can Staying Fit Reduce Your Prostate Cancer Risk?

By Pat Carragher - February 13, 2024

Exercise has always been known to reduce risks for many different cancer types, but a new study shows that an increase in cardiorespiratory fitness could significantly prevent prostate cancer.

The study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that men whose cardiorespiratory fitness improved by 3% or more annually over five years were 35% less likely to develop prostate cancer than men whose cardiorespiratory fitness declined by 3% annually.

“It follows the thinking that exercising can help prevent different types of cancer including breast, prostate and colon cancers,” said Dr. Julio Pow-Sang, chair of the Genitourinary Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center. “The theory is it decreases inflammation and glucose levels, which lead to diabetes and obesity. All of these are linked to increased cancer risk.”

Researchers studied more than 57,000 men in Sweden who were enrolled in a health database as early as 1982. The participants took at least two fitness tests, which involved pedaling on a stationary bike and estimating the amount of oxygen based on their heart rate. A higher volume indicated a greater fitness level.

The researchers then analyzed whether the men had developed prostate cancer after an average of seven years had passed since their last fitness tests. Results showed that men could decrease their risk of prostate cancer by improving their cardiorespiratory fitness through activities that elevate their heart rates.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 299,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States in 2024. About 35,000 will die from the disease.

Dr. Julio Pow-Sang, Genirourinary Oncology Program

“We typically recommend a combination of cardio and strength training for patients with prostate cancer,” Pow-Sang said. “Whether it’s running or biking, along with using weights, these exercises really complement each other when it comes to reducing cancer risks.”

Aside from skin cancer, prostate cancer is the most common type of cancer affecting men. One in eight men will be diagnosed with the disease during his lifetime. Men ages 45 to 75 should have a conversation with their doctor about the risks and benefits of prostate cancer screening. The Prostate Cancer Foundation recommends that Black and African American men talk to their doctor about screening at age 40. 

Prostate cancer symptoms tend to develop in the later stages of the disease, however, initial warning signs may include:

  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Painful or burning sensation during urination or ejaculation
  • Problems starting or stopping a stream of urine

As the disease progresses, prostate cancer may cause more pronounced symptoms, such as:

  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • Bone pain that doesn’t go away or leads to fractures
  • Pain in the pelvic area, lower back, hips or thighs
  • Weakened, decreased or interrupted flow of urine

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